Atlanta United defeated Club America Wednesday night to claim its first international trophy in its short two and a half year history. The match also signaled the first time when the Five Stripes were the away team despite being at the Benz, because of the high amount of fans in yellow shirts.
Recently, Atlanta has been on a good run in MLS play and with the boost of confidence of going toe-to-toe with a powerhouse club from Mexico, Atlanta is playing its best soccer of 2019 and I hope this could be the beginning of something special. Here are my three thoughts on the match:
This was not a friendly
Many people said that this match would not really be taken serious by either team and that they would most likely field players that don’t usually see playing time, yeah that was not the case at all.
From the initial whistle, both teams pushed forward and played an attractive style of soccer. The match featured five goals, four cards and a total of 42 fouls were called; Club America’s Bruno Valdez said that he was expecting a tough, physical game and well, that’s exactly what happened Wednesday night.
During Campeones Cup, Atlanta played its best game of 2019 and that was because players such as Dion Pereira, Pity Martinez, Darlington Nagbe and everyone in the roster treated the game as it should had: a final where a trophy was on the line.
Atlanta continues to set a high standard for MLS
The club said since day one that its main goal is to be known not just in MLS but also globally. After Atlanta won MLS Cup last year, many hoped the Five Stripes would be the first team from the league to win CONCACAF Champions League, but unfortunately that dream came to an end when the team lost to Monterrey in the quarterfinals.
On Wednesday night, after Atlanta defeated Las Aguilas, the game became the top story in ESPN Mex, TUDN, Marca Claro, AS Mex and many other Mexican press. So even though maybe Atlanta United is not known globally just yet, the team is certainly known in Mexico now.
With the U.S. Open Cup final in two weeks, if Atlanta comes out victorious, they will be participating in the Champions League once again in 2020 and this time, that tournament will not be unknown territory.
Also, as long as the front office of Atlanta United keeps the same philosophy of buying young, exciting players, it will be only a matter of time until the Five Stripes will be a soccer club that will not only be talked about in North America but also throughout the world.
Depth, depth and more depth
Frank De Boer made five changes to the starting lineup from Sunday’s match against NYCFC. The changes included seeing Alec Kann, Florentin Pogba, Jeff Larentowicz, Emerson Hyndman and Dion Pereira.
De Boer said in the postgame press conference that he believes that the team is able to win games with everyone involved, not just 11 players; he also gave big praise to goalkeeper Kann, who hadn’t started a match since last year against the Chicago Fire in U.S. Open Cup.
“He’s a fantastic guy, he’s a fantastic goalkeeper and he’s training very hard,” De Boer said. “I think he deserved to play this game and he didn’t disappoint me.”
With the tight schedule for the Five Stripes between MLS and U.S. Open Cup, it would not be surprising to see more rotations in the starting 11 in the upcoming games and Kann said it best postgame, “Opportunities are few and far between. I’ve learned that the last couple of years. But I’ve always said to myself, ‘When you get an opportunity you have to take it and put your best foot forward.’ I think I did that today.”